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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Now that you're pregnant there are a few extra things you need to think about when it comes to your diet and health. Not only is it important to eat a balanced diet, but you should also be aware of which foods to avoid or handle with extra care during pregnancy. That's because some foods can carry food-borne illnesses, which could put you and your baby at risk.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy include:

  • Unpasteurized cheeses and milk, soft and semi-soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert
  • Blue-veined cheeses, such as, Stilton, or Danish Blue (unless they have been pasteurized)
  • Raw or lightly cooked meat
  • Uncooked Liver, liver-based foods*
  • Cod liver oil
  • Unpasteurized cider and eggnog Soft-boiled eggs or eggs used raw in foods such as homemade mayonnaise, and desserts such as mousses
  • Raw and uncooked sushi and shellfish
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Non-dried deli meats such as bologna, roast beef and turkey breast. If you choose to eat these meats heat them until they are steaming hot. Also avoid eating hot dogs out of the package, make sure to cook them fully
  • Avoid eating shark, marlin, swordfish, orange roughy, escolar and tuna (light tuna is ok) as these have been shown to contain relatively high levels of methyl-mercury, which might affect the nervous system of unborn babies

These foods may contain bacteria, such as listeria and salmonella, or they may have high levels of vitamin A or mercury.

Food safety

Follow these common sense tips when handling food:

  • Always wash your hands before handling food or eating.
  • Wash fruit and salad well, even pre-packed salads, and always put chilled or frozen foods in the fridge or freezer soon after purchase.
  • Ensure that you cook all meat thoroughly. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat.
  • Use safe food handling practices when preparing meat and poultry.
  • All reheated food must be piping hot before eating, and food should not be reheated more than once.
  • Always check the best before date of any store-bought foods.
  • When purchasing liver and liver-based products such as pâté and meat spreads, choose varieties that are shelf stable and do not require refrigeration prior to opening*1.
  • Always fully cook any fresh liver or organ meats*.

Substances that can harm you and your baby

The potential dangers of certain substances are quite well known. But sometimes, understanding why these things can be dangerous to both you and your unborn baby makes it easier to avoid them.


Nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide are chemical substances associated with smoking. If you smoke before or after your baby is born, you risk your health and your baby's health. The sooner you quit, the better it will be for your baby.

It is a good idea to encourage your partner and other family members to quit too, because second-hand smoke can put you and your baby at risk.


Coffee, tea, cola and some other carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some cold and head medications contain caffeine. While you don't have to give up caffeine all together when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, Health Canada recommends that you limit your intake to 300mg a day. Too much caffeine could contribute to some complications in pregnancy including low birth weight. Visit the Health Canada website for a detailed list of acceptable herbal teas during pregnancy.


No amount of alcohol can be safely recommended during pregnancy because health experts simply do not know what level is safe. Due to the detrimental effects of alcohol on your growing baby experts recommend that you avoid alcohol during pregnancy and minimize your intake while breastfeeding.


Many types of drugs can affect your baby. Some can cause severe birth defects or other problems for the baby. Be sure your doctor or health advisor knows about any drugs you were taking before your pregnancy. Also, you should not take any prescription or non-prescription drugs without the advice of a healthcare professional. You can also consult or call the national Motherisk Helpline (1-877-439-2744) at the Hospital for Sick Children for information about the safety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Natural Health Products (NHPs) & other herbal products

Natural or herbal health products are often seen as safe because they are made from plants or other natural substances but it is very important to read the label. Many products may not be safe for pregnant women. Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any natural health products during pregnancy.

If you don't find the information you're looking for, please feel free to contact us for additional support.

*Liver is very high in vitamin A. Do not eat more than one food guide serving (75g) of liver per week during the first three months of pregnancy (HealthLinkBC. Healthy Eating Guidelines for Pregnancy. 2013. Accessed: February 14, 2014).


1The Government of Canada. Safe Food Handling for Pregnant Women. 2014. Accessed: February 14, 2014.